Tidbit: Vote For Your Favorite Intellectuals!

Foreign Policy / Prospect is conducting a poll of your favorite public intellectuals.  I was frankly pleased by the number of people from the global South they had there (Ashis Nandy?  Abdolkarim Soroush?  Who knew?), given the circumstances.  You can also write in anyone you want at the end, in addition to (or perhaps in lieu of) your five choices.

Here it is.

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In terms of autos, I'm very

In terms of autos, I'm very serious -- at least when it comes to domestic producers (yes, there are a lot of MNCs in the sector, and that's new). Also, the big mistake that everyone makes is to think only about passenger cars. This is a big big mistake, and the reason why you can't imagine a parallel between the 1950s and today. The three biggest indigenous auto manufacturers make trucks, 2 / 3 wheelers and tractors respectively, and they all did so starting from the the 1960s.

Reliance on agriculture?! Please please please tell me where the jobs are being created to take people away from the fields (a la the good old Lewis model, which I'm surprised to hear you advocating). Certainly not what you call dynamic sectors -- oil (rentier), telecom (rentier), IT / BPO (low-end service even at the level of TCS or Wipro), cement (rentier), construction (speculative), real estate (even more speculative...).

And health-care and education! These are two of the fastest growing private-sector industries, at the tertiary level. So much so, in fact, that you get the manufacturers complaining about the quality of privately educated engineers in states like Tamil Nadu. In terms of primary education or health care, agreed that the government is letting it fall apart, but do you honestly think the corporates are interested in building village schools and clinics? :)

Samuel Huntington did at

Samuel Huntington did at least write 'political order in changing societies' and thus went a long way to destroying modernisation theory way back before most of us were born. He can at least be credited for that (1966) even though almost everything he's done since is, shall we say, cr*p.

- Sullen overseas researcher wanting to go back to long days in grad school :)

The list also includes Sunita

The list also includes Sunita Narain of the Center for Science and Environment, who with a gaggle of "experts" including the much moustachioed Ginesh Mohan of IIT-Delhi has rammed through the Bus Transit Corridor transport system upon New Delhi. This is a disaster of almost Stalinist/Ceausescu'ist proportions and approaches the Cultural Revolution in its contempt for people! But I remember never attribute to malice what is due to stupidity. Isn't it interesting how out of touch a supposedly serious publication like Foreign Policy is with the world it writes about? A few speeches here and there is all that is required to anoint someone as a country scholar.

Kawaa, ...but if the only

Kawaa,

...but if the only aspects of the Indian economy that are dynamic are telecoms, IT and BPOs, then the country is royally royally screwed.

No they aren\'t the only sectors, they are among the many that have become dynamic after the government took its hands off them, or were so abstruse that the government had no idea of what to do with them as they grew. I said as in telecom, automobiles.... And even now when the dead hand of the government or its corrupt ministers tamper with investment decisions (as TR Baalu did under the benign gaze of Manmohan Singh in forcing Bharat Petroleum to locate a refinery in TN, or his imbecilish pursuit of the Sethusamudram Project) the sector can survive if it is in the primary sector. It is healthcare and education where the government dominates with no accountability that are close to collapse.

A more perilious problem for India is the excessive dependence of agriculture - 60% of the population is sustained by a sector that produces barely 20% of the country\'s GDP. The cavalier disregard for infrastructure worsens matters and is today the major contributor to inflation.

Are you even for a moment equating the Indian auto industry of the 1950s with the industry of today? You can\'t be serious.

My choices 1. Paul Krugman -

My choices

1. Paul Krugman - always helps us makes sense of what is going on with the economy, doesn't simply rehash ideology; stays clear of absolutes; a true successor to Keynes and brings economics as close possibly as it can to a science
2. Lee Kuan Yew - Built a prosperous modern nation state in less than the span of a generation that is a threat no one, but its recalcitrant citizens. Offers evidence of why much of our post-WW2 "progressive" economic and political thinking is so much hogwash, and offers a constant reminder to the many scoundrels and scallywags who run the Indian political system, especially in culturally related Tamil Nadu of how stupid they are.
3. V. S. Ramachandran - The only scientist today who offers an alternative concept of human experience, rubbishing Descartes, and the entire secular philosophy project, which is but a thinly velied cover for the very religious based mind-body dualism
4. Ayaan Hirsi Ali - She would be intelligent even if all she did was to speak of her experiences. She does much, much more, all without falling into the trap of reactionary stuck-in-the-mud traditionalists. Every time she speaks she shames the entire gaggle of "progressive intellectuals" who lack the guts to stand by her because they are busy shilling for the other variety of reactionaries
5. Umberto Eco - He writes like no fiction or non-fiction writer today, and has been advancing the frontiers of his knowledge constantly. Is the first Western intellectual who has studied the Indian intellectual tradition - interesting since there most of the Indians who study it rarely if at all, write in English.

I passed on my favourite three Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennet because they are already right up there and don't need a crummy poll to pitchfork them. Dr. Mohammad Yunus already has the Nobel. Dr. Farrukh Saleem in Pakistan isn't writing economics these days. I didn't vote for Amartya Sen, because this is a poll for the top five not the bottom five! Along the way there are some surprises. Bjorn Lomborg, the pseudoscientific crank? Ram Guha whose entire mission in life is to write an endless Nehru'nama? Niall Ferguson, the poorly read pulp historian?

My write in candidate - S. N. Balagangadhara, director of the Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap - Research Center for the Comparative Science of Cultures at Ghent University, for throwing new light on the study of India by the West over the last 500 years post-rennaisance, and clarifying our fuzzy and ill-informed notions of several terms that we use unthinkingly. I would have liked to add J.N.Mohanty our foremost international scholar of the philosophy of India. But then I would have to add also Dr. Stephen Phillips (for his work on Navya Naya and his 900 page 1st volume of his exposition of Gangesa's Tattvacintamani, the latest Indian work on the philosophy of logic - about 500 years old. Or Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad an emerging star in Hindu and Indian Philosophy. But that would be too narrow.

But we don't have today a Russell or Einstein who spanned the worlds of theory and public discourse. Steven Weinberg talks too little of the world but he could get there if he did, because with a mind like that any new field would be a shoo-in. And we are poorer for having lost Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Feynman.

sorry! That should read I

sorry! That should read

I passed on my favourite three Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennet because they are already right up there and don’t need a crummy poll to pitch them up.

I can't even remember who I

I can't even remember who I voted for, but I think it was:

Abdolkarim Soroush
Tony Judt
Ian Buruma
Amartya Sen
Noam Chomsky

yeah, i sold out :)

I sort of hate to be a

I sort of hate to be a political economy stickler here, but if the only aspects of the Indian economy that are dynamic are telecoms, IT and BPOs, then the country is royally royally screwed. These sectors provide employment (direct or indirect) to what, 2 or 3 million people? Out of a workforce of 400 million?

Auto is a special case, but even there the strength of foreign collaboration and indigenisation was as evident in the 1950s as it is now -- Piaggo, Vespa, Fiat, and later on Maruti-Suzuki. The planning era needs to be actually studied -- all too often, it's used as a concept rather than a complex period in the economic history of the country.

It's funny that the only people these days talking in Nehruvian planning commission language are the industrialists themselves.

That was fun! I love the

That was fun! I love the site that has everybody's bios on it. I have to say, seeing Francis Fukuyama on there made my stomach turn. I had to teach a student I was tutoring "The End of History" once and I thought I was going to vomit the whole time. I was also surprised to see Thomas Friedman on the list - I know his books are influential and everything, but I feel like he's not on the same level as everyone else on the list. Of course, I'm one of the few people I know who was not a fan of The Earth is Flat.

What has an intellectual

What has an intellectual achieved? How much weight do they pull and what does their influence result in? That way the entire gaggle of post-Independence intellectuals of India - I mean Constituent Assembly - the ones who attract the epithet towards themselves, are miserable failures, and have harmed India immensely. But the ones a jealous Nehru and his factotums marginalised - Masani, DVG, BR Shenoy, and many others of the liberals and later the Swatantra Party, are our forgotten heros today. A Milton Friedman or the entire AEI/CEI/Cato/Alexis De Tocqueville/Fraser Institute(s) too have done quite a bit to dismantle the New Deal regulations that protected the US financial sector for decades. They too have been spectacular failures. Where do you classify an Alan Bloom or a Bork? Poseurs or pretenders? But certainly as bad as they are, they don't deserve to be clubbed with theoretically challenged types like Thomas Friedman.

And then do we know that Bjorn Lomborg is vegan? Does he get points for that?

Is no one else appalled by

Is no one else appalled by the slim representation of the Left among the choices? Don't we even get to consider voting for Angela Davis or Tariq Ali?

Dr. Anonymous, ...the

Dr. Anonymous,

...the planning period is what laid the groundwork for the current bout of private/public capitalism

This is not a matter of understanding, just a matter of opinion. Dynamism in any sector of the economy is associated either with zero government involvement, as in IT, BPO, and general business services; or has come after the government shifted out of monopoly operation to regulation; as in telecom, automobiles, aviation, and electronic media. Of the sectors that the State dominates - healthcare and education are decrepit; urban infrastructure has collapsed; bureaucracy has assumed a life of its own.

Many of the shackles that existed before liberalization sound straight out of some bizzaro universe - industrial licensing, export control, exchange controls etc.

Of course, I’m one of the few

Of course, I’m one of the few people I know who was not a fan of The Earth is Flat.

Can I suggest finding a new reading group? :)

Is no one else appalled by

Is no one else appalled by the slim representation of the Left among the choices? Don’t we even get to consider voting for Angela Davis or Tariq Ali?

Good point. I think I'm not widely read enough and just too used to it to have noticed, but it is relevant. And what about Sameer Amin? Immanuel Wallerstein?

That way the entire gaggle of

That way the entire gaggle of post-Independence intellectuals of India - I mean Constituent Assembly - the ones who attract the epithet towards themselves, are miserable failures, and have harmed India immensely. But the ones a jealous Nehru and his factotums marginalised - Masani, DVG, BR Shenoy, and many others of the liberals and later the Swatantra Party, are our forgotten heros today.

Can you present a coherent argument for this? I'm not familiar enough with the specifics of what constituted liberal policy at independence to actually engage a debate on Nehruvian state capitalism vs. the alternatives. Of course, we could bypass the great-man stuff and talk about the emergence of indigenous capital in India over the past 60 years and the way that's reflected in the politics. :)

Also, I hope you're giving Ambedkar his due just...for being Ambedkar.

manvantara, i think you have

manvantara, i think you have a mistaken (or at least overly simple) understanding of indian economics. the planning period is what laid the groundwork for the current bout of private/public capitalism. In a sense, the only thing that's fundamentally changed is the growth of indian capital to the point where it could take over the state, but the state was always serving its interests (see nehru on the importance of industrialization). a lot of people argue that the liberalization reforms are actually a retreat from successful development policy (which relies on policy autonomy, protection, and carrots and sticks to force both moving up the technology ladder and improvements in labor capital and tfp productivity). e.g. see s. korea or china.

a more pertinent question that i have, though, is how that can be reconciled with real human beings and their lives, because it's a bit hard to picture. which has the potential to leave one very unhappy.

Dr Anonymous, Also, I hope

Dr Anonymous,

Also, I hope you’re giving Ambedkar his due just…for being Ambedkar.

Of course. When he passed away in 1956, all restraint on Nehru disappeared. Ambedkar was of the opinion that the Constitution should not specify the economic form of the Union, being a matter best left to the people. He was classical liberal in his emphasis on means and the development of institutions. He also made clear on more than one occasion that a political process could be meaningful only if it involved people of courage and learning. There's this priceless passage of his where he contrasts Gandhi's movement with that of the extremists and the liberals. While a knave could not be an extremists and a fool could not join the liberals, all manners of riff-raff could join hands with Gandhi, as all it required was some anarchic behaviour! In his closing speech at the Constiuent Assembly Ambedkar among other things requested that now that we had given ourselves a Constitution we should use means within the law to pursue our differences with the State and avoid dharnas, hartals, and the like - what he called the grammar of anarchy. Ambedkar and Jinnah began their careers as liberals and were both influenced by Gokhale. Although Ambedkar grew disenchanted with Indian liberals because they acted too slowly or had different priorities with respect to social empowerment, he never gave up on matters of principle. Educate, Organise, Agitate - is a classical liberal path; and Vidyasagar would have concurred with it gladly. Ambedkar was for other things too, a strong center and Union, robust pursuit of national interest through economic strength, and a strong and well armed military.

I consider myself lucky to have seen and heard Minoo Masani at the Indian Merchants Chamber >20 years ago at an orientation program for journalists. The great man had still not given up although he was entering the last stages of his long innings. Those days we had no idea how close we were to the shakeup of India's economy that an obscure polyglot in Rajiv's cabinet - was about to usher in a few years later. The mood was distinctly socialist although everyone of us business journalists knew within ourselves that something was seriously wrong. Masani spoke for about 5 minutes, and then questions extended it to 10, then 15, and then after an hour we still talking. Arguing furiously with everything he said! Of course it was like a minnow boxing Muhammad Ali. Asked what he considered his greatest achievement, Masani replied that he had none and had largely failed to turn back the waves of socialism, but one thing he was proud of was bringing preventing the collectivisation of agriculture. His solution to smuggling was to revoke foreign exchange control laws, slash import duties, and shut down entire ministries. All very prophetic.

Screw free speech - when is

Screw free speech - when is somebody going to take a hit out on Thomas Friedman. After Fukuyama and Huntington, he also makes me want to vomit. How have these three individuals, clearly of inferior intelligence been so influential? I'm pissed. Despite critique after critique, three people who have presented and re-affirmed some of the most dangerously misguided perceptions of change in our time made it to the list. Like reading the work of dead white men all the time isn't enough...we have to be subjected to the living.

Excuse vitriol and diatribe. It's been a long day at grad school.

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